Senior Ayush Sehgal

By Elisia Brodeur

I had heard about Ayush’s many various accomplishments in my time here and wanted to get a glimpse into what it takes to be an all-around successful student and Senior at RIS. He kindly took the time to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy reading about this remarkable student as much as I have. Congratulations, Ayush! RIS wishes you all the best for your future.

How long have you been at RIS?

I’ve been a student at RIS since first grade, in 2006. But my family has had ties with the school for a while because my sister, who graduated with the Class of 2009, also joined RIS in first grade.

Where are you going to University?

I am headed to UC Berkeley.

Why did you decide to apply there?

I applied to UC Berkeley for many reasons, one being I have family in California, which will be comforting when I miss home. It does not snow there and the climate is relatively similar to Thailand, so weather was a big part of my decision. Berkeley is also ranked very highly for many academic disciplines, allowing me to explore a wide range of options and possible career paths. Also, the campus is very close to Silicon Valley, which is like Disneyland for tech students.

What will you study?

I will be studying Computer Science. I chose this major as I have always had a passion for technology and love keeping up with new technology.

What passions have you discovered at RIS and how did you discover them?

A passion, or really a mindset, I discovered at RIS is for sharing things that I have experience in and helping others for their own benefit. In elementary school, I was relatively quiet and well behaved. I participated in classes and could talk openly to students and teachers, but I was still shy and reserved. As I got older, I became more daring and willing to take risks and share my skills and talents with others. One of my biggest risks was joining the school’s MS/HS Jazz Band. I had been drumming since first grade but didn’t have the confidence to perform on stage. When I realized that I needed to jump out of my comfort zone, I opened up a new side of myself.

How has RIS nurtured your passions and interests?

We are a very service-oriented school that offers many activities, both on and off campus, that revolve around doing good for others. In the National Honor Society, for example, our committees are dedicated to encouraging the four pillars of NHS (Service, Scholarship, Character, and Leadership) throughout the campus and across grade levels. This mindset—to work selflessly for others and to share something you are good at or have experience in—is something RIS has nurtured in me.

Also, the fact that RIS tries to make the boundaries between each school section more fluid inspired several of the activities I’ve been involved in, such as LINK Crew where we help incoming Freshmen get used to the HS ways of life, or NHS, where we host stress-relieving activities to help students brainstorm ways to deal with academic challenges. These activities bridge the gap between age levels and encourage sharing knowledge and experiences.

I heard that drumming inspired your first TEDx talk. Tell me more.

When I started drumming, I was excited to learn a unique instrument (most of my friends played piano). After several years I took a drumming test and found that I was not improving as quickly as I hoped and my self-confidence dropped quite a lot. I thought passion was enough, but I came to understand that I was really lacking commitment. I realized that joining the band would force me to improve my drumming skills, which would make me more confident and comfortable as a drummer. Personally, I became more extraverted and open, too. That small risk brought me out of a time of doubting myself. I thought this very powerful message was worth sharing with others my age because they had likely been through a similar struggle. This risk inspired me to write and present a TEDx talk in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

What clubs have you been part of at RIS and why did you choose them?

I chose to join Habitat for Humanity because it offers a creative way of mixing intense physical activity in the context of helping others. It’s also one of the clubs that is linked to an official service-based organization, so we know that our work will be extremely impactful and have merit. It was also a great way to improve my organizational skills—as Secretary, I had to communicate with the organization and make sure our paperwork was done properly.

When I was in 10th grade, our Computer Science teacher wanted to establish a Tech Club that would focus on promoting computer science and the use of technology throughout the school. As President, I helped to organize our first Hack Event for students and teachers to come together to explore different aspects of technology. I chose this club because I’m extremely passionate about technology and knew that I was planning to major in a similar field at university.

How have your experiences working with these clubs impacted you and your school career?

Building on the impact and importance of service, I helped the Tech Club set up training sessions with ES students to spread what the Tech Club was doing to other parts of our school. We provided 5th graders with resources for coding and design to promote an interest in computer science so our young students will be prepared to use technology and pursue tech classes in the future.

This project strongly inspired my future plans for university and career as it gave me the opportunity to be in a teaching role. I realized how much planning is required to be a teacher and that it is more fun and rewarding than I thought. This gave me a glimpse into how to combine my passion for computer science and apply it in the context of service and teaching. I also realized that I want to be a teacher at some point, perhaps as a TA at university.

Were there any particular classes or off-campus experiences that felt like “aha moments” in terms of your passions/future plans? If so, which?

In my Computer Science intro class I became fascinated by the idea behind coding. What appeals to me most about engineering and computer science is that the main goal is to solve problems by making things easier for people. This concept stuck with me because I realized that within these fields the work is directed toward helping others, and yourself, in a way that breaks down big problems into much smaller and more easily managed parts. When I understood that making algorithms and coding was just this, I knew that majoring in this field would be perfect for me as it would teach me to be a strong problem solver.  

What would you say are the top three factors in your success so far?

I’ve struggled a lot with making choices; for instance, I had a hard time choosing between the IB and AP track in my Junior year. From that experience I learned that focus was one factor that brought me out of my struggle and led me to success. Being focused on a single task at a time helped me get through being an IB diploma student. With the diploma, you have a lot of assignments in the back of your mind, and it isn’t possible to focus on all of them simultaneously, so focusing helped me filter my tasks and get things done one by one. I credit a lot of my IB success to this.

What has helped me overcome stress is optimism and open-mindedness. Between schoolwork and a bunch of extracurricular activities, the main thing that motivated me to continue was being optimistic. Optimism helped me believe that I could pull through, particularly in my indecision with IB and all the work I had to do. Open-mindedness, on the other hand, is what helped me leave my comfort zone. In spite of being a quiet 6-year-old, I chose to play one of the loudest instruments. Also, while working with the Habitat for Humanity staff, I pushed myself to improve my conversational Thai skills and to make myself more approachable.

What do you think RIS has done for you in terms of setting you up for success?

With all the activities I was exposed to at school, I was able to try activities that I wouldn’t have known I enjoyed. My passion for drumming, technology, service, and leadership all developed this way. Also, sharing these passions with others and not just keeping them to myself is something I learned here. This mindset will be useful later as it has taught me to become more open-minded and focused on what my goals are and how they can impact others.

What do you think RIS does best to help students prepare for college and their future?

Giving students a worldview is something RIS does well to prepare students for their future endeavors. A major lesson I learned here was that academics are not the only important part of your life; there are many other factors that define who you are. These factors are the sports you take part in, the service you do for others, your talents, and your personal skills. The fact that RIS provides more than just academic programs gives students a chance to open up different sides of their personality and experiment inside and outside the classroom, preparing them not only for higher education but for surviving in the real world as well. Also, as an international school in Thailand, most of the students are proficient English and Thai speakers, preparing them not only for life in Thailand but also beyond.